Black Bean Salad

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Another flexible recipe that will adjust to whatever you have on hand, but as always, the more colorful, the better-looking (for your eyes) and the better for your health. This one had:

1 cup dried black beans, which I brought to a boil with water to cover in a saucepan, over high heat, then turned off and left overnight, then cooked a bit more the next day to just the right tenderness, which takes 15 minutes or so — this will amount to about 2 1/2 cooked beans
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, diced, tossed with 1 teaspoon olive oil and roasted in 400 degree oven 12-15 minutes or just until it has a touch of color (indicating a Maillard reaction has occurred — this brings out flavor)
1 cup frozen corn, toasted in a dry skillet until slightly colored
1 orange, peeled, cut into sections and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 handful cilantro, minced
1 red pepper, roasted in 400 degree oven ~20 minutes, then cooled, peeled under running water, and diced
the juice of 1 lime
3 scallions, trimmed and sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (I do this to taste because of the kids)
1 avocado, chopped and immediately tossed with some juice from the lime
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

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After you’ve got all that up there done, the rest is easy. Just toss, adjust seasonings, and enjoy.

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Note: I try to use all organic ingredients whenever I can, so if you peruse the recipes here, there are many that will specify “organic this” and “organic that”. I’ve decided to stop doing that now since many people are more aware about the benefits and implications of opting for organic foods whenever and wherever possible. However, to make it easy for the reader who isn’t used yet to this kind of intentional shopping, here’s a handy guide that may help.

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This is a graphic that appeared here but it seems they’ve taken the original down and I can’t find a new link. No copyright infringement intended.

French Onion Soup / Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinée

Reposting from my old blog.

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Onion soup is a lovely thing to make right after the onion harvest at end of season, when the weather’s just starting to cool down. Onion soup is also a lovely thing to start love stories with. Like ours, which certainly didn’t begin with onion soup, but has seen its share of this dish through the years. Our first real date (though with a group) was at the now-defunct 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant in St. Louis. My then-suitor invited me via a sweet 2-page note, hyping up the view of airplanes taking off and landing as “romantic”. I didn’t see anything romantic about airplanes doing what they do, but whatever. Well, everyone ordered this starter served in a crock like the one in the last photo. I fell for the crocks.

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Now ubiquitous, French onion was in vogue at the time, served in a crock at the (also defunct) Famous-Barr‘s basement restaurant on Kingshighway and Chippewa in St. Louis. St. Louis Bread Company chose to serve it in sourdough bread bowls, crowned with golden melted cheese flecked with brown. You take the bread lid that’s served on the side and dip it in the soup, then you eat the soup, then you eat the bowl it came in. Scrumptious and brilliant.

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As a newlywed, I burned my hand making Julia Child’s version (in The Way to Cook) in our apartment one monthiversary. The soup had just finished its short foray into the broiler to melt the cheese and when I pulled the sheet bearing the cups (we didn’t have crocks) a bit too quickly and sloshed the boiling liquid right onto my wrist. My hubby promptly got butter and ice and ice water in a large bowl, and I ate dinner with one hand in the bowl and one hand holding my fork. Yeah, romantic indeed.

Our children all love French onion soup, and it’s one of our emergency meals, the closest SLBC (now Panera) a mere 5 minutes away. The homemade version, of course, is so much better, cheaper, and customizable. To make it, you’ll need:

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3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3-4 large onions, sliced thin (red and yellow combo is nice, as are Vidalias, and no need to get too fanatic about slicing evenly)
2 large pinches sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup wine, red or white (almost any dry wine will do, or sherry or French vermouth)
2 tablespoons flour (gluten-free instructions below)
1 French baguette, sliced and toasted
2 quarts beef broth or stock, or as some will debate, water
Grated Gruyere, I prefer Swiss over French, but your choice
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Pecorino or Grana Padano), optional

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Heat oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring every once in a while, until onions are limp and just beginning to brown.

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Add the sugar, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes, until onions are caramelized nicely, 20 minutes or so. Add garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs. I just stick the thyme sprigs in there — if you want to go through the trouble of picking the leaves off the stem, be my guest, but I don’t usually bother as the leaves tend to fall off anyway in the cooking and I can fish out the stems easily enough later. Cook a few minutes more. Add wine and bring to a boil by turning up the heat. When boiling, reduce heat and simmer until wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over, and cook about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the beef broth and bring back to a boil. When boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook 10-15 minutes more.

While soup is cooking, toast bread slices and grate the cheeses.

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Fish out the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and you’re done! Ladle into crocks or individual soup bowls, top with toasted bread slices and sprinkle on the cheeses. I prefer Swiss Gruyere and try to find the real thing as I find locally produced ones too salty. I do like the touch of Parmigiano on top. You can also use use grated or sliced Swiss cheese (holey or not), or any yellow melty cheese for the top, like Mozzarella or Provolone.

Amusing trivia I found while researching for this post: the French/Swiss Gruyere Cheese war.

Broil for 3 minutes or so, just until cheese is melted and top is golden.

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Gluten-free note: If you wish to make this gluten-free, besides subbing gluten-free bread slices for the bread, omit the flour and thicken the soup instead, right before ladling, with some tapioca, arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved in some water. Bring the soup to a boil again and stir the starch mixture in to incorporate and cook a few more minutes. Taste to make sure the soup doesn’t have any raw starch taste before serving.

The Lyon(s), France version of this is known to be particularly thick and rich, so preparing this dish would be a great way to celebrate St. John Vianney‘s Feast Day on August 4.

It’s also perfect for our meatless days during the Lenten season.

DIY Kimchi

I promised my friend and fellow homeschooling mom Ruth a post on how I make my kimchi. Ruth is the queen of lacto-fermentation. I get so inspired whenever I see her jars of healthy eating and drinking. Hope you and your family enjoy this, Ruth!!

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First of all you’ll need a large bowl to do all your mixing. A wide rather than a deep one is better for this purpose so you can get both your hands in there.

Next you’ll need a large jar to put your kimchi in.

My mom has been making lacto-fermented stuff since I was a child. In the Philippines these are called buro. Growing up I wasn’t too fond of them, but my adult nose and taste buds have learned to appreciate them, probably also because I’m more health-conscious now.

My mom used whatever deep container she had, usually a jar reused from store-bought food. She didn’t have any specialized containers. So I was surprised when I saw the great debate on jars and pickling containers and crocks. I read a bunch of articles until my brain cells couldn’t handle anymore. I did end up getting a couple of Pickl-Its and a couple more hermetically-sealed jars for storage, but I’m just not going to sweat the details too much. My mom is 80 and my dad’s 86 and they’ve never had problems eating what she’s made. I do have a hubby and kids who suffer from allergies and other ailments that could be related to the digestive system, so I wanted to increase the chances of them getting as much benefit from this as possible. The important thing is that while the vegetables are fermenting, make sure they are completely submerged in the liquid.

1 large napa cabbage
1/2 cup coarse salt (I like using kosher or sea salt)
1/3 to 1/2 cup gochugaru (Korean hot pepper powder — these vary in heat so adjust to your liking, though kimchi *is* supposed to be hot)
1/4 cup Korean fish sauce — can substitute other fish sauces, though I like this one for Korean dishes
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 medium daikon (I try to get something that’s about 6-8 inches long, though sometimes my Asian market only carries huge ones, and I don’t like those so I skip the daikon), quartered lengthwise and cut into thin slices crosswise
1 2-inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced
half a handful garlic, peeled and minced (I like garlic, what can I say — you can adjust if you like)
5 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon saeujeot (Korean salted shrimp) — this is optional, but if you can find it in your local Asian store it’s a nice addition
1 tablespoon sugar

The procedure is simple. Cut the napa cabbage in half lengthwise, then into 2-inch pieces crosswise. (Another way to cut it is into quarters lengthwise, then slit the stem portion but don’t cut all the way through, leaving each quarter whole.) Put everything in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Get your hands in there and rub the salt all over the cabbage, making sure you salt the stem portions very well. Add water to cover and let sit a couple of hours. At the end of two hours, turn things over just to mix up again and let sit another hour.

Drain the water off, rinse with fresh water, drain again, and squeeze any excess water out. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine well with your hands, making sure the seasonings are evenly distributed. You might want to use gloves if you’re sensitive to the hot pepper.

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Pack into a 2-quart jar, squeezing everything in so that everything is submerged in the liquid. If there’s not enough liquid at first, don’t worry. The liquid will increase as it sits, so check every now and then and push everything to the bottom with a chopstick or some other long-handled implement. Some people use weights like an small inverted bowl, or plastic baggy with water inside, but I haven’t found it necessary to do this.

Set inside a dark cupboard or pantry and let ferment 3-4 days, releasing the gases every day if needed (with a Pickl-it jar I haven’t had to do this). Transfer to a hermetically sealed container, store in the refrigerator and enjoy. (I’ll post recipes for using kimchi in future posts.)

You can play around with the vegetables, add more or less of what you like. Things like apples and carrots go well here. The seasonings are also adjustable though I wouldn’t skimp on the hot pepper powder and the fish sauce and shrimp (these things can be omitted and salt used in their place but you’ll have to play around with amounts for it to ferment properly).

Bouchons au Thon

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Molly Wizenberg wrote about this dish in 2005, when I was just beginning my blogging journey. I made it with canned salmon because that’s what I had, and it struck me how similar it is to the Filipino torta, which I learned as a child, with a couple of exceptions: no dairy, and everything was sauteed with the classic Filipino combo of garlic-onion-tomato before folding into scrambled eggs, and then either fried in patties, or baked in a dish. In 2005 also we weren’t avoiding dairy, like we are now, but once in a while I miss the cheesy, creamy richness of Molly’s recipe, so it gets a spot on the menu.

It’s a great protein addition to a salad, plopped in the middle of a bed of greens and other goodies. Or tucked into lunchboxes as a handy snack — it’s delicious hot, cold or at room temperature.

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You can follow original recipe linked above. Or do it with my substitutions:

1 jar tuna in olive oil, drained (if I can’t find Spanish tuna like As Do Mar or Ortiz, I like this tuna; Molly specifies tuna in water, but I almost never use a water-packed one, as I prefer those packed in olive oil) — I used more in this recipe, since I still had a partially finished jar which I added in as well
3 tablespoons tomato paste
5 tablespoons crème fraîche, or do as I do and use 4 tablespoons heavy cream mixed with 1 tablespoon yogurt and let stand for 10 minutes
3 large eggs
1 cup grated Gruyère
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 cup minced onion

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, distribute into 12 muffin tins (Molly’s recipe makes 8, mine makes 12 because of the additional tuna, and I think mine come out smaller) and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes.

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You can make this with almost anything in place of the tuna — sauteed chopped asparagus or broccoli or mushroom duxelles for instance, or chopped ham or bacon or precooked ground meat, or chopped shrimp. Think of them as mini quiches, though a bit firmer and heavier. Yum yum.

Mushrooms and Kale in Garlic

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2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1-inch gingerroot, peeled, minced (optional)
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced thin
3 cups baby kale
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or wheat-free tamari if you’re avoiding wheat, or several pinches salt if avoiding soy
pinch sugar (optional)
splash sake or mirin (optional)

As you can see, this is a very flexible recipe, but a very easy and healthy side dish one could prepare in minutes while the kids set the table.

Heat oil in wok or large skillet over high heat. Add garlic, and ginger if using, and sauté for a minute or until fragrant and garlic is just beginning to color. Add in mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or until juices have rendered. Add kale and soy sauce (or tamari or salt), sugar and sake or mirin if using. Continue cooking a couple minutes more until kale is just wilted but still a sprightly green. Serve immediately.

This would make a lovely vegetarian meal served over steamed brown rice.

The Mighty Broccoli

We’re about halfway through Lent and I thought it would be a great time to feature some meatless recipes here. I probably should dedicate this post to my youngest brother who hates broccoli >:) . Broccoli’s one of my favorite vegetables though, and I’ve just grown to like it even more through the years, for two reasons: 1) it’s good for you and 2) the kids actually love and eat it.

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IMG_1247 Thai-Flavored Stir Fry


broccoli Roast Broccoli with Lemon and Parmigiano (scroll halfway down the page)


broccoliviet Spicy Broccoli Braise


chopsuey"Chop Suey, a Repost


Ground Meat Recipes – more of a tutorial on how to cook ground meat with different things, including broccoli


Broccoli with Pasta and a Spicy Almond Butter Sauce


Bagna Cauda Dip – to be served with vegetables for dipping

Meatless Soups for Lent

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Suzanne over at the forum bumped up Nancy’s old thread on meatless soups, so I’m putting together a compilation of old posts here in case it would help.

It’s soup season still, so I’m hoping to update old posts with pictures that got lost when I switched blog hosts and forgot to renew our old image hosting.

Here are some yummy meatless soups:

Black Bean Chili
Sopa de Mariscos
Creamy Forest Mushroom Soup
Lentil Soup with Kale
Filipino-Style Pumpkin Soup
Soupe au Pistou
Greek Shrimp Stew
a rather pricey, not really for Lent type of soup, but it is meatless: Zuppa di Tartufo Nero

and here are some soups that can be adapted for Lent by omitting the meat ingredient or subbing with seafood, or meat substitutes:

Barley Soup Johri’s Talvo
Chickpea Stew with Spinach and Chorizo
Lentil, Kale and Sausage Soup

Thai-Flavored Stir Fry

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 large cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 Thai chilies or 1 Serrano chili, sliced thinly (deseed if you want less heat)
1 1/2 tablespoons grated gingerroot
1 12-oz package cremini mushrooms, or Baby Bellas, or 1 cup shiitakes, sliced thin (discard stems if using shiitake)
1 large bunch broccoli, cut into florets, stem peeled and sliced thin or reserved for another use
2 large carrots, sliced thinly
5 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 14-oz can regular or light coconut milk
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes (can also be deep-fried or pan-fried before adding to recipe)
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons fish sauce
salt to taste
leaves from sprig of Thai basil, chopped
juice of half a lime

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and pepper. Stir-fry 2 minutes. Add turmeric, mushrooms, broccoli and carrot. Stir-fry 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, coconut milk, tofu, water, and fish sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes. Adjust seasoning Add basil and lime juice. Stir one more time and serve. Yummy over brown rice.


I like this with some HEAT, however my kids don’t. When using the peppers I either add it to my dish, or have a small portion in another skillet to which I add it. Or, if you want some controlled heat, put the peppers in a tea bag and secure it to the side of the skillet. Take it out when the dish is as hot as you like it to be.

March 2009

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found a Town and Country here (and same color as our van in the US!) — an Italian version, approx. the same size as the Fiat Ulysse we’re renting, thought that was pretty funny — this was taken at the apt. complex where our condo is – March 10

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Nino’s smile – March 11

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Yena and Nino – March 12

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roast broccoli – March 13

Recipe:

Toss broccoli florets (as dry as possible)
and sliced-up stems
with olive oil,
salt and freshly ground black pepper,
a large pinch of red pepper flakes,
the zest and the juice from one lemon.

Spread in one layer on a baking sheet, and roast at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until just beginning to crisp on the edges.
Finish off with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, or Grana Padano.

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the family minus Aisa, hotel balcony before we moved to the condo – March 14

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Aisa practicing her violin which she opted to bring instead of her guitar — view from her room and balcony – March 16

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Pork belly, from locally raised “mountain pigs”, marinated in balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper — I would have grilled this had we a grill, had to pan-fry it… but no complaints! – March 16

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Aisa and Nino, March 17

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Look at that hair! Nino after his bath – March 17

Bagna Cauda

Four Days to Party Time!

So far we’ve got embutido (not my recipe, but something similar), samosas, chicken wings (sweet-spicy and Buffalo), crab cake bites, Thai-flavored mussels, morcon, scallops-in-bacon, chicken sate, and mango sorbet done.

The recipes linked are not the ones I’m using but no time right now to post recipes for those… Working on: Chicken with Green Mole and White Beans, Spanakopita, stuffed mushrooms and rainbow cookies for the cookie platter.

And this bagna cauda recipe. Many bagna cauda recipes call for butter, but I’ve omitted it for dh (dear husband).

A whole head of garlic, peeled and minced (at least 1/2 cup)
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
12 anchovies
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Touch of freshly squeezed lemon juice , to taste, or some white wine if you like
Minced parsley to be added at serving time

I just heat everything up in a small saucepan, until the garlic is softened and the anchovies have disintegrated. Now that I think about why I love bagna cauda so much these days, I recall that it’s very similar to something called “October Sauce” which I found years and years ago in a garlic lovers’ cookbook. Stinking Rose or something like that; the author invented the sauce from whatever he had in the pantry on an evening when he found himself confronted with unexpected guests. It was in October so he called it October Sauce.

We will be serving this in a fondue pot, with cut up vegetables all around — broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, carrots, peppers, etc.

Brazil Exploration: Basic Rice and Sopa de Mariscos

Like most of you know, I’m a rice gal — we have rice most days and we usually feel a meal isn’t a meal unless there’s rice somewhere. So I’m naturally curious about all the different rice preparations that other cuisines have. Like this one from Brazil, which is just like my American friends like their rice. I like mine a little drier though.

From the book Tasting Brazil, by Jessica Harris

Basic Rice

3 1/2 cups water (I’d recommend decreasing this to 3)
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Bring water to boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in rice, salt and butter. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 20 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve hot.

The Sopa de Mariscos recipe also comes from Jessica Harris. A soup that intrigues me because I’ve found it in a few Filipino cookbooks but don’t remember ever having it when I still lived there. Except for the use of olive oil, this could have come straight out of an Asian cookbook, what with the use of coconut milk and cilantro.

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A Bahian recipe, it includes crabmeat and other seafood — the broth is light but rich-tasting.

1/4 pound bay or sea scallops
1/4 pound crabmeat
1/4 pound mussels, shelled and washed (or use fresh unopened mussels but lengthen cooking time to until they open)
1/4 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup pure olive oil
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
2 small onions, sliced
1 bay leaf
salt, minced cilantro and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 cups fish stock (I used a court bouillon I made from a salmon fish head, not my favorite fish to make court bouillon with but it was the only thing available)
1/2 cup thin coconut milk

Heat olive oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add all ingredients except fish stock and coconut milk, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add fish stock and allow it to come to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove any mussels that have not opened if using fresh. Pour in coconut milk, stir, and remove soup from the heat. Miss Harris says to serve this with garlic bread, but we used rice instead.

Simple, easy, and delish.